Saturday, March 23, 2013

Reminiscing Sickness (and its Silver Linings)

Right before February ended, my supposedly happy last week at work took a worrying nosedive into paranoia-inducing fear. I started having chronic muscle pains that spread all across my body. It started with a sharp pain in my left hand, then it climbed into my neck, my shoulders, my right hand, and near my ribs.

Advil wasn't working. Neither did the hot compress. For four full days, I couldn't do normal human stuff without the pain keeping me in check. It sucked.

My grand plans on how to proceed with the downtime between jobs all broke down, along with my body. I couldn't even read a book for too long, because the minimal effort it required to hold it would put a strain on my hands and neck. It was hellish.

What really sucked though was the horrible timing of it all. By my last day at work, the pain had escalated into nearly unbearable levels. I had to surrender my company health card upon resignation, something I foolishly didn't anticipate because the premiums on them were paid quarterly. It meant that my card was supposed to be valid until March.

I shouldn't have given it back so soon, because the medical costs when you don't have a card will really bleed your wallet dry. My last payment was sucked into a vacuum of numerous medical tests, consultations and ridiculously expensive drugs. There goes my budget for new running shoes and good ramen.


The good news is that the drugs worked well. While they didn't completely obliterate the nagging pains, they did numb my body enough so that I could get some much needed sleep. I could stay at my computer for hours again, and even managed to write some fairly decent articles. Life was getting back to normal, it seemed.

And then the itches came.

Oh how horrible it was. It was unlike any itch that I've ever felt before. If you felt what I did in that first itch attack, I swear, you'd put a gun on your head and shoot it, just for it to end. Swimming in a pool of higads would probably still not compare to it. It was maddening. I was scratching maniacally at an itch that wouldn't go away. An itch that enveloped my entire upper body, save my neck and face. It seemed to be coming from inside my very body. It was like being devoured from the inside by ants.

I was running, screaming and scratching all at the same time, in an attempt to distract myself from the hellish itching. It was futile. Like a rabid dog, I was thrashing around, unable to think clearly. Good thing my Mom had a pretty powerful anti-allergy medicine in stock. It worked well, and helped me battle a second, third and fourth itch attack that happened in the next week.

By that point, we were already aware that some sort of virus was going around our house. My brother, fresh off a vacation from Palawan, had bought home an unwanted souvenir. He was the first among us to develop some (similar to mine) symptoms of a viral infection. We never really found out what it was, but I've a feeling it was Rubella. Also known as German Measles or 3 day measles.

Which meant that I too would be having spots. And I did. On a Sunday morning, upon waking up, my arms were covered with them. Tiny little red ones that clustered together in high density areas. I was like some sort of grotesque reverse strawberry man.

The next day, it spread to my chest and legs. Thankfully the spots themselves weren't itchy. But for some unknown reason, almost every time I would take a bath, an itch attack would follow. Even after the spots were gone, I had one last bout with that itch, although it had fortunately lessened in intensity.

But without a doubt, the most terrifying symptom I developed was when the area between my stomach and groin swelled up. It became soft and painful. Every step I took had me grimacing. Being the semi-hypochondriac that I am, I feared the worst. What if my balls swelled up too? And everything else near it? The horror!

Thankfully, whatever it was, it didn't last. It shrank the next day, and was gone the next. It was simply the disease giving me one last middle finger before leaving my body for good. However, our bodies aren't like machines. For one reason or another, I still don't feel quite as healthy as before this all went down. This despite the fact that I am eating so much healthier than ever.

In fact, during what was the most physically painful week of my life, I was eating salad twice a day. It was sickening. I was soon getting tired of my dressing options. Caesars, Honey Mustard, Vinaigrette, you name it, I've probably used it to make my salad vaguely edible. Just having croutons and cheese was like a special day to me. I also avoided red meat whenever possible. I ate so much fish and chicken that I started to wonder what other non pork/beef meats would taste like.  Like bayawak. Or snakes.

In a further attempt to boost my health, I also started playing basketball again. It was pathetic. My shots were bouncing all over the place. I was panting like a fat dog before we even scored halfway into a set. The Koreans (who play ball like clumsy girls with cataracts) would probably school me on that day.

It was particularly sad to realize that 8 games (Win when you reach 12) of half-court ball made my legs ache for nearly a week. It was a far cry from my physical peak in high school, where I would easily run somewhere between 15-20km a week. Age is such a bitch.

But it wasn't all doom and gloom. Despite everything, I still had an abundance of time to do whatever I can. Given my physical limitations, I've still made a few really great discoveries and realizations, all of them requiring little physical exertion:

- Community is not just an excellent sitcom, it's a superb TV series. Period. I cannot stop raving about it. Too bad its creator, Dan Harmon was fired after season 3. While it's still a good show in its current season, fans will definitely feel like something is missing. The deliberate craziness and absurdity seem to have been toned down. Guess I can say goodbye to the amazing concept episodes that make me just pause and snicker whenever I recall them. Oh, and Alison Brie is really hot. I am smitten with her. :)

Six seasons and a movie!
- The power of being in a popular website is amazing. My work at Pepper.ph has really opened up my career options, and I am getting really good offers because of it. Just a year ago, no one would trust an unpublished, inexperienced copywriter like me. Now, I finally have some proof that I'm not just an art school graduate who decided to be a writer because I can't design for shit (although that may be partly true).

- It really is important having someone to talk to when you're down. My one man support system really helped me relax during those difficult times. Like always, he was reliable for talking about anything and everything, including the really ugly and painful parts. I'm really glad we re-connected again, because there was a time when we just drifted apart, for no particular reason. Hurray for friends who don't give you shit for being occasionally dramatic.

- The beating that my wallet took has burned this in my head: get a damn health card. As soon as possible. There's a reason hospitals never go out of business, and that reason has little to do with actually caring for people. It is expensive to get sick, so upgrading your lifestyle to be just a notch healthier might be advisable. But then again, even the healthiest people can get cancer, so it's still your choice if it's worth it to quit drinking and smoking altogether. Because YOLO, according to swag-infused kids.

- And I hate to say this, but it seems like the better the doctor, the more apathetic they are. As a House fan, I know that it's better to have a competent asshole treating you instead of a compassionate idiot. But when you're the one who is ill, you will really appreciate a doctor who cares. Or at least makes the effort to pretend like they do.


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